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Nobel campaign priest admits abuse

A Belgian priest has confessed to child sex abuse after accusations surfaced during a campaign to nominate him for the Nobel Peace Prize.

A woman came forward to say that Francois Houtart had abused her brother 40 years ago.

In a Belgian newspaper he confessed to touching "the intimate parts" of his cousin in the incident, a revelation deepening a sex-abuse scandal that has rocked the Catholic Church in the country.

After a spate of accusations this year, the church in September published the harrowing accounts of more than 100 victims of clerical sex abuse, some as young as two when they were assaulted.

Houtart, 85, resigned in October from the Cetri organisation he founded, which publishes reports critical of developed nations' actions in the Third World.

He told the newspaper Le Soir that he twice touched "the intimate parts" of his cousin, an incident he called "inconsiderate and irresponsible," and that he entered the boy's room, when he was staying with the boy's parents close to Liege, in eastern Belgium.

"Walking through the room of one of the family's boys, I effectively touched his intimate parts twice, which woke him up and frightened him," he said.

The campaign to nominate Houtart for the 2011 Nobel Prize was dropped last month, with organisers saying the priest had said "his age and his personal projects would not allow him to fully assume the role requested in such circumstances."

Houtart told Le Soir he was "personally perturbed" by the incident, "since I was conscious of the contradiction it represented with my Christian faith and my function as a priest."

He says the boy's parents suggested he get in touch with a professor at the seminar in Liege, who advised him to stay in the priesthood and concentrate on his work.


From Belfast Telegraph